Thursday, July 28, 2011


Whenever I get one of those ice-breaker questions asking what occupation I would choose if I weren’t a preacher, my answers vacillate among “football player,” “auto parts man,” and “poet.”

I haven’t played football since a flag-football game with friends in Como park about thirty years ago. And I’m not that much of a fan. Maybe it’s just that I’ve seen one too many Fred MacMurray campus movies about the B-stringer saving the day as the seconds count down.

Auto parts? Don’t ask.

I do try my hand every once in a while at what I call poetry. I like sonnets. I like to read them (“a work of art you can carry in your pocket”) and I enjoy the combination of artistry and wordsmanship of writing them. Somehow, in my messy life, I’m attracted to that feature of the sonnet in which everything is in its place and there’s a place for everything. Like an auto parts store.

Here are two sonnets. In the first, I gave myself the assignment of teaching fifth graders the “rules” for how to write a sonnet in the sonnet. I was only partially successful. The second is a reflection of meeting a friend at a small diner.

How To Write A Sonnet Like Shakespeare

In fourteen lines you tell what’s on your mind.
The first two state the case you want to prove.
Your subject can be almost any kind
(Though Shakespeare almost always wrote of love!).
A sonnet’s like a puzzle or a game:
You always use this rhythm and this rhyme.
So, to the ear, each line will sound the same:
Ten syllables all marching on in time.
But poetry is more than rhyming rules,
And rhythm’s like the beating of a heart:
Your feelings and your words must be the tools
That turn the sonnet’s canvas into art.
Now, prove that you can do it, from the top.
(And with two lines – a couplet – make it stop.)

Breakfast at the World Café

This table, with my friend, is the whole world
squeezed, for a time, into this small café.
The universe itself, in fact, is swirled
in creamy coffee spirals; and a day
takes shape – created out of words and light.
And laughter – our own “music of the spheres,”
our morning song that sings away the night –
ascends beyond the gravity of years.
So waitress, please, let’s have another cup,
and let the clinking spoon out-tick the clock.
And maybe, if we keep from looking up,
we’ll stop the time – a cosmic mental block!
No… it ticks on; our world comes to an end,
and you and I must go to work, my friend.


Jeffrey Dean said...

Some have a way with words; others no have way.
You have way.

Becky Hanson said...

I love these two sonnets. Wish I'd had them when I was teaching sonnets to 12th graders and making them write their own. Thanks for posting.